Communism and democratic socialism or interventionist welfarism (which has been the dominant force in law and government in the western world for the last few decades) in different ways attempt to create a "new man" through the establishment of a legal system based on equality, fairness and social justice.
The essential danger and destructiveness of the communist state in the 20th century is that it has not been satisfied only with controlling the political and economic affairs of society. In its totalitarian form, the communist state extends its domination into the personal and cultural being of man. It swallows up the individual and attempts to create and mould in its place a creature completely in the image of the ideology of the State.
How is this done? A brilliant case study is now to be found in Mikhail Heller's Cogs in the Wheel. The Formation of Soviet Man.
Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, not merely to nationalise the means of production and direct the economy through central planning. Their goal was wider than that: the creation of a New Soviet Man, freed from the bourgeois prejudices of the past.
The "New Man" was to be altruist in spirit, communal in outlook, sacrificial in his labour for the common good, boundless in his fight for world revolution.
Professor Heller explains the means and methods for production of Homo Sovieticus. The first step was total destruction of the old social order and all of the social and cultural institutions that surrounded and protected the individual. Heller refers to this as the process of culturally stripping the individual naked and atomising him so he is defenceless and mouldable by the state in each and every corner of social life.
The next step was the "nationalisation of time" through central planning. Through the instituting of "the plan" under Stalin, the State attempted to control and manipulate the very concept of time. All human life existed and continued through the dimensions and durations defined by the plan. The Soviet authorities, Heller explains, tried to set and change the boundaries of "past", "present", and "future" by accelerating, shortening, and modifying the temporal horizons within which all economic and social activity were made to conform.
Finally came "ideologization", the process through which the Soviet State attempted to fill the content of men's minds and influenced the language and thought patterns of "the people" in whose name the leaders undertook this grand scheme. Under this heading Heller details the state's control and direction of literature, the arts, education, and the all-pervasive din of propaganda through every mode of communication. Nor does Heller ignore the role of fear, intimidation, and terror as practised by the secret police.
Seventy years of Communism have not produced a New Society Man. Human nature and will are ultimately stronger than the State. Seven decades of the Total State have influenced, modified and distorted the institutions of society. The abolition of the Communist Party is only the beginning. New institutions based on new values will take a long long time to grow.
The Communist experiment demonstrates the difference between theory and practice. The New Man under communism "is altruist in spirit, communal in outlook, sacrificial in labour for the common good, boundless in his fight for world revolution". The substitution of "change through democratic processes and civil disobedience" for "world revolution" would be an accurate summation of the views of elites in the western democratic countries. The differences between the communist state and the democratic socialist state dreamed of by western societies and reformers is that violent revolution is to be avoided and revolution effected gradually through: abuse of democratic processes, concealment of the reality of change from the people (through gradualism and other devices), the suppression of opposing points of view in the media, growth of government power (which restricts scope for individual action and initiative), and intimidation of all contrary viewpoints. Dominant elites in the west are aiming to gradually move towards the same ideals and goals which failed in communist countries.
Is socialism dead?
This leads on to the question: Is not Socialism DEAD? Is this analysis relevant? Socialism is a theory based on equality. Equality has not prevailed anywhere. The practice of socialism has led to increase of government power. Is socialism dead? It cannot die because it never existed anywhere. The bankruptcy of socialism has been recognised in some communist countries. Even in those countries the pervasive influence of government control and regulations exists. The movement to change the extent of government control and power has only begun. Whether and in what direction it will continue is not clear.
There are many communist countries (North Korea, Cuba) and liberation movements headed by communists (South Africa) where there is no apparent recognition of the bankruptcy of socialism.
The bankruptcy of socialism (the practice of which is an ever increasing government influence, power and control at the behest of specially favoured interest groups) is not recognised in many "democratic" countries. The power of favoured interest groups is growing.
The Australian Labor Party has been misleadingly described and presented as a pro-private enterprise government. It has been good for some big private enterprises, but has presided over an unprecedented decline in small business and family farms. The record of so called conservative and liberal government throughout the western world is not dissimilar.
Socialism in the sense of increasing government power and benefits to favoured groups is very much alive in Australia and the western world. The favoured groups include conservationists, trade union leaders and the Industrial Relations Club, Aboriginal activists, homosexuals, environmentalists, radical feminists, abortionists, many who are hostile in varying degrees to the market economy and the idea of individual responsibility, some (not all) big businesses (but not small business). The practice of socialism in the sense of more power to government to deal with human problems is very much alive in Australia and the western world government, business and academia.